Moline Public Library uses copper as an exterior building material

Architects incorporate decorative copper panels to create the look of a heavy plate copper shingle. 

March 22, 2012 |
OPN Architects knew using copper as a building material for the Moline Public Li

As OPN Architects, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, set out to design a new library for the residents of Moline, Ill., they acknowledged the library as an institution has evolved from a traditional space reserved for individual reading and research into an energizing, interactive, technology-based community resource.

OPN envisioned a design that reflected the library’s modern role in society, while remaining true to its traditional character. The firm concluded that a building of contemporary design featuring time-honored building materials would best achieve their design aesthetic. Hallmarks of conservative design, brick, stone, glass, and copper were selected.

OPN saw an opportunity to break copper away from its conventional use and employ it in an innovative, fresh manner--as a building material. They envisioned using decorative copper panels to create the look of a heavy plate copper shingle. The design objective was impressive, but OPN Architects knew using copper in this unique fashion presented two significant challenges: cost and durability. They turned to ALPOLIC Materials for a solution.

OPN Architects recognized that ALPOLIC’s copper composite material offered five significant benefits:

  • The use of genuine copper
  • Significant cost savings over the use of copper sheets
  • The appearance of heavy-gauge copper in a light-weight material
  • Durability
  • Reduced production and fabrication time

Another challenge of working with copper is the “oil can effect”--the slight undulations that can occur if the copper is not of sufficient gauge. Due to the rigidity of the ALPOLIC panel, the “oil can effect” problem was eliminated. 

Project SummaryMoline Public Library


Owner/developer: City of Moline, Ill.

Architect: OPN Architects

General Contractor: Russell Construction

Fabricator: Metal Design Systems Inc.

Panel Manufacturer: ALPOLIC

Products: 2mm PE Copper Metal; 4mm Mica Platinum

Amount of Material: 18,600-sf

OPN Architects also enlisted the help of Metal Design Systems Inc. (MDS), a fabricator based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. MDS developed a one-of-a-kind post patina process that provided ALPOLIC’s copper composite with a unique, rich finish. OPN Architects used ALPOLIC’s PE Copper Metal in its un-altered state in tandem with the in-house patina copper. The materials will evolve independently as well as in harmony, creating a distinctive organic finish that will change as the material matures. The copper’s “living” effect mimics the energy of the library itself.

ALPOLIC panels in the Mica Platinum finish were also used on the Moline Public Library project--both on the exterior and interior, providing additional aesthetic appeal and durability.

OPN Architects and MDS agree; ALPOLIC’s copper composite made the Moline Public Library’s innovative design objective possible. BD+C

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